Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Come to the Table

Part 1 – Liturgy 

Here is the traditional shape of a church service for most of church history, across the traditions... a pattern of Word and Sacraments... whereas today many evangelicals would emphasise either Word and Spirit or simply the Word.

1. The Liturgy of the Catechumens / Word 
  • Bible Reading
  • Preaching
  • Creeds
2. The Liturgy of the Sacraments / Eucharist
  • Confession
  • Eucharist
  • Sending out into God’s world
Only the baptised could participate fully in the second part of this service. Catechumen’s gain access after a period of Catechesis designed to educate desire for Christ, building up to Baptism and a first Eucharist.

  • What would the experience of this kind of service be like? What does this include that we miss - what are we missing out on? What's missing that's normal for us?
  • What does the two-stage service communicate about the value of Baptism and The Supper, and the church? 
  • Jonathan Edwards was fired (in part) for wanting to keep this ‘barrier’ at the Table... why would Baptism be the qualification for eating and drinking at the Table? What's helpful about that and what's difficult? What questions does this raise?
Part 2 – The Table 

The key texts for interpreting the table are that Jesus says "this is my body/blood given for you" and "do this in remembrance of me" "proclaiming his death". Understanding has varied in the history of the church... As a rough over simplified sketch...
  • 11th Century - The East and West split over Trinity & Politics, not so much over communion. Few today would understand which side of the argument they'd fall on. Does the Holy Spirit come from the Father, or from the Father and the Son? From this, 1000 years of schism in the church. There's a richness in much Eastern liturgy of the Supper that feels like reading Calvin most excellently in Alexander Schmemann.
  • 16th Century – Protests against Rome by Luther over many issues, including The Supper. 
  • Luther says the Bread and Wine remain but doesn't resolve how. 
  • Zwingli pulls away more strongly towards symbolism that emphasises a solemn remembrance. 
  • Calvin finds a middle pathway and sees the Holy Spirit as the one who makes Christ present at the table.  
  • Rome condemns the Reformers for their teaching in this area and the Protestant Oxford Martyrs are killed over this issue in a highly-charged political context.
  • Taking up each of the five major positions - how do you view the table from this perspective? How important is this moment? What expectations would you have? What questions would you have? 
Part 3 - Calvin

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